Saturday, 28 March 2015

Gluten free and Free From at IFE

The International Food Exhibition (IFE) is a two-yearly trade show held at Excel in March of every odd year, and is usually a good showcase for both free from food, and vegan and vegetarian food, in which I also have a keen professional and personal interest. Here are some of the highlights from 2015's show.

New gluten free, no nuts and no dairy bars from Oh My Goodness were launched at the show. Four contain gluten-free oats and are essentially flapjacks: the Buttery Oat Bar and Fruity Oat Bar were both good, but the Merry Berry was not so much to my taste. There’s also an Appletastic flavour, as well as a Chocolate Brownie bar, which wasn’t bad, as far as non-fresh brownies go.

It’s great that these are labelled ‘no nut’ and don’t carry any peanut or nut warning, but there are some minor labelling issues (‘oats’ not in bold; ‘for allergens, including cereals containing gluten, see ingredients in bold’), which I hope get resolved. Always good to have more snack bar options.

See the Oh My Goodness site for more info.

I’d tried and very much enjoyed some Consenza products before - among them the Teff and Raisin Crackers, from Whole Foods Market, possibly - but hadn’t realised their range was as extensive as it is. They do flours, crispbreads, ready meals, cereals, cakes, fish fingers, ice cream cones, snack bars, pancake mixes, and much more.

 It's a brand that looks as if it should do well, with appealing packaging, and some strong savoury options, which are much needed. I can no longer find any products at WFM online, but you can get a selection of them on Amazon (including some of the excellent crackers, such as the Cheese and Pumpkin) and Ocado stock some too.

For more information, see the Consenza site here.

Ape Snacks are dried coconut curls which come in ‘lightly salted’ and ‘slightly peppered’ varieties - peppering coconut struck me as unusual, but it worked, although the coconut curls were quite small - possibly due to breaking up during transportation. Gluten and dairy free - and (buzzword alert) paleo too.

No image, sorry, but see Ape Snacks' site here.

I really liked the look of these soy bean and black bean pastas from … Sweden, believe it or not. Not yet available in the UK, though. By A la Eco.

The A La Eco site is here.

Currently looking for wider distribution were Simply 7 quinoa, lentil and hummus chips, all gluten free. These were delicious and are available in a number of flavours, including Cheddar, sour cream, jalapeno, bruschetta, tomato basil and many others.

Some are vegan, but some contain dairy. I found several on Amazon, but only in bulk, and they don’t appear to be easily available elsewhere yet.

More information on the Dolfin UK site here.

Kintaro's new Nut Clusters (above) were also pretty good. They come in Black Sesame and Cashew nut, Hot and Spicy, and Almond flavours, and are vegan, gluten free and dairy free. They should be coming to Holland and Barrett, if I remember correctly, quite soon, but are presently available via their own site.

See I Love Bite's page on the Nut Clusters here.

Chris Ridge of RGF Foods, who I met at the show, told me he’d spent well over a year developing his range of products for food service - and quite a range it is too, including sweet treats, ready meals (including gluten free spaghetti bolognaise), soups, snacks - and a GF beer (left).

It was clearly important to him that he could provide an across-the-board range of products. At the time of writing, the website and social media accounts are just holding pages, but as they were just launching at the show, this could be a range to watch.

The RGF Foods site is here.

This Gluten Free Pantry trio, on the Olives et al stand, looked good, but I’ve not been able to find them online. I was told they were newly launching. Crumble Topping, Sweet Pastry Mix, and Savoury Pastry Mix, in handy pouches.

Link to Olives et Al is here.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Energy healing: an instant food allergy cure?

So this came in yesterday: 

Hi Alex, 

I read your blog on food allergies. I teach energy healing, and I have worked out a way to harmonise the threat of a potential allergen, so that the body no longer reacts. The treatment is instant, the results can be easily seen straight away with kinesiology, or indeed by consuming the foodstuff. 

I was wondering if you would be interested in writing a first person article on this in exchange for the treatment?  

For more info please refer to my website, and specifically this page on allergy desensitisation. 

Kind regards,

My response, lightly edited to avoid identification, was this:

Hi Name,   

Thanks for writing. I'm not sure you can read my blog that closely as I don't have food allergies and I consider kinesiology fanciful and unproven. 

There is no cure - not quick nor slow - for food allergy - although there are some long desensitisation protocols which seem promising in trials - and the promise on your website to make patients allergies' 'vanish ... ' is potentially dangerous. Allergy is not a failure of the body to recognise a substance's  'energy' as you say - the immune system recognises allergens as potential threats, and reacts accordingly. 

Please would you consider removing this material from your site? I would also like to put you in touch with an allergist or immunologist who can explain what allergies actually are, and that they cannot be treated using the practices you describe.    

I look forward to hearing from you.   

Alex Gazzola.

To the person's credit, they are willing to consult with an allergist and even demonstrate their work. 

I don't want this to be a Twitter witch hunt, and I am not going to put the individual's name online. I also hope bloggers who may have received the same letter as I avoid doing so too. But it is to me alarming that the practitioner appears prepared to treat allergic individuals and then encourage them to consume a food to demonstrate their allergy has been successfully treated. 

If there is an allergist - or allergy charity? - willing to engage with the individual concerned, please email me via the contact me icon at my website

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Food Sensitive Community: not fair game for political point-scoring

Top chefs attack EU rules on allergens in food reads the Telegraph this morning, to a collective sigh of frustration from those with food allergies, coeliac and intolerances, whose lives (in the case of those living with potential anaphylaxis) don't appear to be as important as the 'spontaneity, creativity and innovation' of the chefs which is supposedly being stifled by EU FIC 1169/2011 - the '14 allergens' labelling laws.

This latest salvo appears to have been co-ordinated by anti-EU campaign group Business for Britain, whose poorly informed take on the matter can be read here. They say that the laws require

" ... caterers and restaurant owners to conduct a comprehensive audit of every ingredient present within their dishes, which must then be displayed on menus ... "

Comprehensive audit? They just need to be aware of what they are putting in their food. There is no requirement for the allergens to be displayed on menus, but allergens included must be available on request - even verbally, provided verifiable in writing.

On a day when BfB have accused Gordon Brown of scaremongering, they appear curiously oblivious to their own pot-kettle-blackness. They quote Prue Leith and the "bureocratic nightmare" in which we find ourselves, where "damage" is being done to industry; there's somebody from Patisserie Valerie talking about "jobs at risk". No evidence in support of these is offered. The letter which BfB's CE Matthew Elliott sent to Jeremy Hunt even talks of 'significant sums of money' being required for 'entirely rewriting menus' or even 'hiring additional staff'. Especially disappointing is Thomasina Miers calling it a "fiasco", unfortunately demonstrating her ignorance in declaring the onus of responsibility in asking about allergens is on the 'allergee' - which the law makes allowance for anyway.

Michelle at Foods Matter has already composed a response, and as I write this, the CMPA Support group have done likewise. Allergy charities have expressed their disappointment. I'll add further links at the foot.

A lot of people are angry, and although there's no productive point in feeling this way, so am I. I'm angry that a privileged group of Eurosceptics consider it appropriate to exploit the food sensitive community in order to further their own anti-European agenda. Thankfully, the EU laws will not change and - at least at present - we are firmly in the EU. These facts will no doubt stick firmly in the craw of Business for Britain, and for that I'm suddenly immensely cheered.

Posts / Responses:
* Michelle's Blog - Top Chefs Attack EU Regulations ... Again!
* CMPA Support - Top Chefs Attack new EU Allergen Laws.
* The Intolerant Gourmand - What are the 'Top Chefs so Afraid of?
* Ruth Holroyd (WhatAllergy) - Top Chefs attack new EU Regulations on allergens in food
* Allergy UK - Top chefs comment on food labelling regulations 
* The Food Allergy Hub - Top Chefs attack EU allergy labelling - a mummy's rant!
* Food Standards Agency - Letter to The Telegraph 
* The Anaphylaxis Campaign - Chefs Say FIR 'damaging creativity' 
* Coeliac UK - Response to comments from chefs on new allergen rules
* Dairy Free Baby and Me - 100 Chefs - Why I'm not Bovvered ...

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity: we're not there yet

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist. Yes it does. No it doesn’t. Yes it does. Round and round we go, in an endless confusing circle of blinkered, righteous assertion. 

The scramble, when the news broke properly, to be among the first to share the latest 'pro-NCGS' research on social media or secure the most hits to one’s site on the back of it was no doubt ultimately won by The Daily Mail. But others covered it and shared it too - Live GF, Medical Daily, Neal's Yard Remedies, and countless more. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Methylisothiazolinone (MI): problem preservative

Although this blog is concerned with food allergy, food intolerance and coeliac, I am closely involved in the field of skin allergy too - and I've written a lot about a notorious preservative called methylisothiazolinone (MI) in the last couple of years. Here is some short background on it, together with some useful links for those already diagnosed with MI allergy.

In 2013, two dermatological organisations issued warnings about a relatively new 'epidemic' of allergy to MI - a preservative present in wet wipes, skin creams, washing up liquid, sun care, fabric conditioners and many more household cleaners and personal toiletries. I wrote about it for Skins Matter, about a year ago.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

How far should free from go to create its market?

Should free from food companies and food service providers be actively marketing 'coeliac and gluten sensitivity profile' tests to their consumers?

I ask, for that's what Inspiral appears to be doing here, in offering a series of tests via a laboratory, with a discount of 10% on the normal price of £95 if you quote their name.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

PrĂȘt a Mang ... Er?

Last summer Pret launched the 'Mexican Guacamole', made with a gluten-free wrap. It carried a disclaimer: "While the ingredients of this product are gluten-free, it has been made in our kitchens which are not gluten-free environments". Blogger Kevin at Gluten Free by the Sea queried their head office about it, was given basic explanation of hygiene / cross-contamination controls and told: "We can't call it gluten-free because of the risk of cross-contamination".

The Mexican Guacamole wrap appears lately to have been supplanted by a Chicken Harissa, also made with a gluten-free wrap (which I understand is Newburn Bakehouse by Warburton's, incidentally) but the Pret line on it is just the same, as they confirmed in an email to Kevin last month. His full account is worth a look. Read it here.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014: a year in coeliac, intolerance and allergy

We’ll gloss over my failed prediction from last year’s round-up that low-FODMAP ready meals would be in our supermarkets by the end of 2014 (by end of 2015, definitely ... ) and instead kick-off where I left off - with scientists doing remarkable work.

We heard this year that drugs to help coeliac patients may be only a few years away, and that oral immunotherapy offers a real, promising road forward for peanut allergies. The potential to manipulate gut bacteria to better manage, prevent or even cure allergies and autoimmune continued to be an active area. Then there was the concept of gluten-free 'pre-digested wheat flour', which uses enzyme technology and which we may be hearing much more of in 2015, not to mention the interesting, albeit controversial, goings-on in so-called 'gluten-friendly wheat' too - where using a microwave process wheat is modified and the gluten reduced and its nature altered, so much so that is appears to be no longer 'recognised' by the immune system of coeliacs.